THE OGRE: BIOGRAPHY OF A MOUNTAIN AND THE DRAMATIC STORY OF THE FIRST ASCENT
ome mountains are high; some mountains are hard. Few are both.” This sets the stage for this quite unclassifiable book from the always-interesting pen of Doug Scott – Himalayan trail-breaker, Everest history-maker and committed member of the Hard As Nails club. Part cultural history, part mountain ‘biography’ and part memoir, the draw here is his account of mountaineering’s most extraordinary survival story. In terms of the obvious comparison, it makes Touching the
Void read like a tickling competition. The story of Scott’s nine-day crawl to (eventual) deliverance after breaking both legs right below the top of one of the world’s hardest mountains in 1977 would be bad enough. Then there’s the storm, the altitude, a climbing partner (Chris Bonington, no less) with broken ribs and pneumonia, no food, porters who abandoned you, a rescue helicopter that crashed and a support team who gave you up for dead. This would be a book in itself. But what Scott’s produced is Review by Simon Ingram something rather more rounded, to the point where the story of this awful descent from almost certain death doesn’t begin until page 136 of 180. It’s a saucer-eyed read – but you feel, like many hardship-hardened folk, he brushes off the mind-boggling pain of it almost too casually. Perhaps it’s the 40-year separation, or that Scott never doubted he was going to make it home (though you suspect that says more about him than the situation), but you almost expect more... despair. Instead, the major grumble was that they only had one tape for their tape player (Dr Hook) and that Scott amused himself during his starved, frozen, fracture-jarring crawl down the mountain by planning a kitchen extension in his head. It’s surprising, but if anything it marks this out among survival tales of a more typically apocalyptic ilk. Copiously illustrated, hilariously sarcastic and almost unbelievably brutal, this could almost be satire. It isn‘t, of course; it’s a fascinating insight into the mind of a survivor against every odd. S
Crawling down Pakistan’s Ogre with two broken legs, 1977: actually a lot harder than it sounds. Even with (or perhaps because of) Dr Hook...